Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday


I love Saturdays, even more so when I have a week of vacation ahead of me. Off to visit New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment with the family. See everyone next week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bigger in Texas (Pillow) Cookies


It seems like numerous variations of pillow cookies have been floating around the blogosphere as of late. Everything from peanut butter stuffed with banana to chocolate stuffed with candy, the possibilities are endless. I'm not usually one to jump on the bandwagon so quickly, but this concept was too good to pass up!

If you've never tried or heard of a pillow cookie, it is basically cookie dough that is formed around an already cooked center such as a brownie or another cookie (eek - cannibals!!) then baked.

For my Bigger in Texas Cookies, fudge brownies are baked and wrapped around a caramel square then covered up in my favorite chocolate chunk cookie dough. The result is a monster of a cookie with a fudgy brownie middle and melted caramel center, definitely big enough to share with a friend. or several.

Bigger in Texas Cookies
(printable recipe)

1 boxed brownie mix, bake according to package directions in a 9x13 pan and cut into 18 pieces
8 caramel candies, unwrapped

For the cookie dough:
2 sticks butter
1/2 c sugar
1 3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. 60% cacao dark chocolate, chopped

Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time and mix well. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients. Slowly add to wet mix, until just combined. Fold in chocolate.
To assemble the cookies, form brownie around caramel square, making sure the caramel is completely covered. Form the brownie into a flat disc, (like a hockey puck). Take 1/2 c of cookie dough and place it on parchment paper, press the brownie into the center. Cover with another 1/2 c cookie dough, making sure the brownie is completely enclosed on all sides.
Bake cookies (2 at a time, they are huge!) for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.


Makes 8 enormous cookies. You could certainly make these smaller if you like, just omit the caramel and cut small chunks of brownie. I prefer the larger ones though, the more cookie the better!

Prickly Pear Tequila Granita


I saved a bit of juice from my Prickly Pear Agua Fresca to make a little treat in honor of tomorrow, National Tequila Day.

I've been wanting to try a granita with a bit of liquor to see how it affected the freezing, and I have to say it worked just how I wanted. The liquor keeps the granita from getting a hard freeze, so it ends up being a really nice, smooth slush. Not to mention tasty and a little boozy. I'll definitely be enjoying this Saturday afternoon.

Celebrate Tequila!

Prickly Pear Tequila Granita
(printable recipe)

2/3 c prickly pear juice (see Prickly Pear Agua Fresca for instructions)
2 tbsp. sugar
1-2 tbsp. tequila
1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice

Combine all and taste for sweetness. You may add more or less tequila if you like, I used 2 tablespoons to get this consistency.
Freeze in a shallow dish and stir every 20 minutes until slushy. Depending on your freezer it may take up to an hour. I froze this overnight and it was easy to scoop right from the freezer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Prickly Pear Agua Fresca


Ok, so its time for a new section here at the Hungry Texan. I've added a new DRINKS area for all of my beverage creations. I've realized over the last few weeks that I have a number of drink recipes piling up to share with you, so in the spirit of keeping order around here, they will be filed under DRINKS instead of COOKS. Makes sense right? It must be the scorching July heat, because all I want is fruit and cold drinks right now...

Anyways, on to the agua fresca! I've been all about prickly pears as of late, and I had about a dozen to use up before vacation next week, so this Prickly Pear Agua Fresca was born. Its lightly sweet, and so refreshing. Perfect for an afternoon pick me up, hey and good for you too!


If you've never had prickly pears, or tunas in spanish, they are a real treat. The prickly pear is the fruit of the nopal, or cactus plant. You can forage for them if you have cactus nearby, just be sure to wear leather gloves and use tongs.

The red tunas give this agua fresca its amazing color. The taste is somewhat like bubble gum, its hard to pin down so you'll just have to try it for yourself.

Prickly Pear Agua Fresca
(printable recipe)

12 prickly pears, 6 green & 6 red
sugar
water

Using tongs hold each pear over a low flame to burn off any needles before handling. Then slice off each end of the fruit, and cut a slit down one side. Peel the skin back away from the fruit and discard. Cut the fruit in a few chunks and toss into the food processor. Process on high for a minute or so, until liquefied. You may also use a blender although all the seeds may prove to be to much for your blender to handle (it was for mine).
Pour the juice through a mesh sieve to remove the seeds. It should yield 2-3 cups of juice. I only used 2 cups, I had other plans for the rest of this juice.
Heat 1 cup of water and 4 tablespoons of sugar on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, combine with 2 cups of prickly pear juice. Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed. Chill and serve over ice.

For more details on how to cut and prep prickly pears, head over to Simply Recipes. They have a great little how-to.


Check back tomorrow to see what I did with the rest of the prickly pear juice. Hint, it involves tequila. Heck. Yes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blackberry Cobbler


Cobblers are a great way to use up surplus summer berries and a snap to make. This simple blackberry cobbler has a filling that is not too sweet (or runny!) and a tender biscuit topping that comes together in minutes.

Blackberry Cobbler
(printable recipe)

for the filling:
3 1/2 c blackberries
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

for the topping:
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold butter
1/4 c boiling water

Combine the filling ingredients, cook over medium heat until sauce starts to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
To make the biscuit topping, combine dry ingredients. Mix thouroughly. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles rice. Add boiling water and stir to combine. Drop spoonfuls on top of filling.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling.


I used my somewhat shallow 10" cast iron skillet, but this may also be prepared in a cake tin or casserole. Be sure to place a sheet pan or piece of foil below your pan to catch any drips.

Try substituting other fruits for the blackberries. Cherries, peaches or apricots would make a nice variation.

Birthday Recap

I had a pretty awesome birthday weekend. We didn't do full-fledged party this year, just dinner with the family, but in addition to that there was shopping, bowling, and so so much cooking, canning, and eating, what more could you ask for?


Ah yes, gifts. I've had my eye on a pressure canner for some time - I'm so excited to use it and can stocks, soups, veggies, and sauces! I am already looking into canning mole sauce and tamales.



I also got an awesome pie carrier in my favorite color, cactus tiles, a new comal, cookbooks, a lovely teal oval dish, and cute shoes. Am I spoiled or what?

There were lots of good eats this weekend too, birthday dinner nachos, pitchers of shiner, banana pudding, an indoor picnic, and pineapple cake. Oh and canning. After all the shopping we did Saturday I did more canning in one day than I've ever done. I put up 6 pints peach pie filling, 3 pints banana peppers, 3 pints pickled okra, countless half pints of peach jam and blueberry butter - my kitchen overfloweth. Recipes will follow as soon as I recover.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Texas Kitchen Towels


Happy Birthday to me! I'm 25 today... so far it doesn't feel any different than 24.
I bought these awesome Texas kitchen towels to celebrate. Find them at Retro-Redheads.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Watermelon Coolers


It is H.O.T.

Summer is in full swing here in Texas and cool refreshing beverages are in demand in our household. I rushed home from work one day and made these. Super simple and ready in an instant, watermelon coolers.


Scoop chilled watermelon and toss in the blender with ice (3 parts melon to 1 part ice).
Blend. Slurp. Enjoy. Imagine you're in 70 degree weather. These are even better with a splash of booze blended in.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits


Is there anything more comforting than a hot, buttered biscuit fresh from the oven? I think not.

Ok, a hot fresh tortilla from the comal probably has biscuits beat but still, I'm sure its biscuits for most southerners.

Here's how I make 'em.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits
(printable recipe)

2 c flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c shortening
7/8 c buttermilk

Sift dry ingredients thoroughly. Cut shortening into dry ingredients until it resembles rice. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk all at once. Stir vigorously with a fork until just combined.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Roll out to 1/2" thick and cut as many biscuits as possible. Trimmings may be clustered together and recut. Place biscuits on a greased baking sheet and brush with butter or milk.
Bake at 450 degrees, 12 minutes. Serve hot from the oven with butter, preserves, or gravy.


*just a side note on these, I had used up all the flour in the house to make 2 cups, so I had to roll these out with wheat flour, thus the speckled appearance.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Babushkups


I'm loving these nesting Babushkups - so adorable. Perfect for a single gal in a dorm or small apartment.

Chichurritos


Pre-dinner snacking.

Spicy Garlic Refrigerator Pickles


Sometimes its just to dang hot to can. Case in point, the day I made these. It was creeping to 100 degrees and the hot sun flooding into my kitchen was not welcoming. I did have some cucumbers, however, that had to be put up. So I devised a plan... quick to prep, minimal stove time, and the fridge does the rest, yes please! Refrigerator pickles were the answer. This recipe uses 8 small pickling cucumbers, a simple brine, a few spices, and fits neatly into 1 quart jar.


Spicy Garlic Refrigerator Pickles
(printable recipe)

8 small pickling cucumbers
1 c vinegar
1 c water
3 tbsp pickling salt
1/8 c sugar
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
3 tsp chopped dill
4 garlic cloves

Slice cucumbers 1/4" thick and set aside in a glass bowl. Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar and bay leaves. Boil 10 minutes. Pour over cucumbers, cover and cool, 30 minutes.
Add mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill and garlic to the jar. Ladle the cucumbers in and cover with brine. Seal and store in the refrigerator.


Wait two weeks and enjoy on burgers, BBQ, and sandwiches.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Mixed Berry Mojitos


Celebrate Friday (or any day) with mixed berry mojitos! These are perfect to whip up for a party or just a lazy day spent relaxing on the porch. Use whatever combination of berries you have on hand.


Mixed Berry Mojitos
(printable recipe)

for 1 pitcher:
1/2 pint each, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries
1/4 c sugar
2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves*
1/4 c fresh squeezed lime juice*
2 1/2 c light rum (substitute rum with sprite & sparkling water for a virgin mojito)
sparkling water
*plus additional for garnish

Muddle the berries, mint and sugar together until the berries are thoroughly crushed and juices begin to run. Add lime juice and rum and stir to combine. Top off with sparkling water (adjust to desired alcohol strength) and serve immediately over ice. You may also make the mixture ahead of time, refrigerate and top with water right before serving.

for 2 glasses:
1/2 c mixed berries
1 tbsp. sugar
8 mint leaves
2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
5 oz light rum
sparkling water

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Canning Basics

If you are just starting out or need to brush up on the basics, this post's for you.

Hot Water Bath canning is fairly simple and requires just a few supplies. You will need...
jars with new lids & rings (pints and half pints can be used for most recipes)
a jar lifter
canning funnel
meat thermometer
large stock pot with a rack to keep jars off the base of the pot
I use a cheap-o tamale steamer, I think it was $15 at Fiesta. If you'd rather not invest in a pot just for canning you can purchase a rack for the jars or improvise. I have even heard of folks using a dishtowel in a pinch. The goal here is to keep your jars at least 1/2" from the bottom to keep them heated evenly.
Other items used should be pretty common in most kitchens, measuring cups, dishcloths, non-reactive cookware, knives, food processor or blender, etc.


Now for the method. First things first, read your recipe from start to finish, read it again if you have any doubts! This will eliminate last minute steps while your jam is bubbling (or burning!) away. Most recipes will give you a yield so you know how many and what size jars to prep (always grab an extra as yields can vary). They will also list the processing time, or the number of minutes the jars should sit submerged in boiling water. Here is a breakdown of basic steps from start to finish:
1. Read recipe, locate and gather all ingredients.
2. Prep ingredients, peel, pit or chop
3. Inspect and prep jars, be sure they are free of cracks and chips. Lids should be new although rings may be reused.
4. Sterilize jars in boiling water canner or in hot water & capful of bleach in your sink
5. Prepare recipe, following instructions for cook times
6. Ladle into hot jars to recommended headspace, wipe rims clean and screw lids on fingertip tight (basically turn with your fingertips until you meet resistance) this may take a while to get a feel for it. You will want to make sure the lids are not on too tight as this will prevent them from venting.
7. Lower jars into boiling water bath, you may need to add water to ensure they are covered by at least 2".
8. Cover and bring to boil. Start your timer and process them for the recommended amount of time on the recipe.
9. Carefully remove jars from water and place onto a dishtowel. You may hear some pops, thats good! Give them enough space between each other for air to circulate but do not place them in a draft.
10. Allow to sit undisturbed 24 hrs. then test for a seal. Fill a new jar with water and screw on a lid. Tap the top with a spoon and observe the sound, this is what you don't want. Tap your jars, they should have a metallic sound a bit more high pitched than the water jar. You can also remove the rings and lift the jar with your fingertips, holding it by the lid alone. If properly sealed it will support the weight of the product.
If you encounter any that have not sealed, stick them in the fridge and use immediately or process again with a new lid.
10. Label and store in a cool, dark pantry or cabinet.

So thats it, not too difficult right? If you'd like to learn more check your local library or Amazon for the following titles:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving - by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. Methods for how to preserve just about anything, also covers pressure canning.
Preserving - by Oded Schwartz. I stumbled upon this book at my local library, I love the international recipes and techniques in this book.
The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables - by Carol Costenbader. Provides a wide variety of recipes for different types of preserving, I especially like some of the freezer recipes in this book.
The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Recipes to Use Year Round - by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. Another great resourse with a ton of recipes.
Putting Up - by Steve Dowdney. Great resource, book has monthly recipes for canning year round. Focus is on southern recipes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I heart sweet potatoes


with maple syrup and cinnamon.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Stuffed Jalapeños


Let's talk about jalapeños for a minute. And cream cheese. And bacon...interested? Great. I know you're probably saying, gosh I just cleaned the grill from the 4th, but consider this an early recipe for next weekend. Although these are so simple you could easily make them any night of the week.

Here's what you need:


jalapeños, cream cheese, bacon, and toothpicks.

Begin by laying out strips of bacon on a plate. Microwave until they are about 1/2 cooked, 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave settings. (watch them if you are unsure). They should still be pretty pliable and easy to wrap around a jalapeño.


While microwaving the bacon in batches, prepare the jalapeños. Remove the stems and slice in half. Remove all of the seeds and membrane.


Spoon in the cream cheese, about a tablespoon full depending on the size of the peppers.


Wrap each with a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick.


Grill for 5-10 minutes on a medium-high heat, until the peppers are soft and the cheese is set.


Thats it! Pretty basic, right? Although there are a couple of steps that are key:
Jalapeños: pick the biggest ones you can find, they will be more mild and hold more filling than the smaller, skinny peppers
Bacon: Precooking in the microwave prevents flare ups on the grill from excess grease that leads to overcooked bacon and under cooked peppers.


Next time I may try blending the cream cheese with a chipotle pepper to give it some added heat and flavor. Give these a try, they are super simple and so delicious!

Stuffed Jalapeños
(printable recipe)

4 large jalapeños (or as many as you need, allow 1 jalapeño / person)
8 slices bacon
4 oz. (half block) cream cheese

Begin by laying out strips of bacon on a plate. Microwave until they are about 1/2 cooked, 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave settings. (watch them if you are unsure). They should still be pretty pliable and easy to wrap around a jalapeño.
While microwaving the bacon in batches, prepare the jalapeños. Remove the stems and slice in half. Remove all of the seeds and membrane.
Spoon in the cream cheese, about a tablespoon full depending on the size of the peppers.
Wrap each with a strip of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
Grill for 5-10 minutes on a medium-high heat, until the peppers are soft and the cheese is set.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rejuvenation Drawer Pulls


To know me is to know my love of mid-century modern. These drawer pulls definitely fit the bill, I would love to outfit my kitchen cabinets with the star backplate design...
Check out Rejuvenation to view the full selection of pulls, handles, and even hinges!

Picadillo

There are probably about as many different recipes for picadillo as there are Hispanic cooks. This is mine, there's no raisins or nuts, just lots of beef and little bits of peppers, onions, and papas. I made this based on the memory of how my mom always makes hers, I think it comes pretty close.


You'll need ground beef, bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, red potato, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and comino.


Chop, chop, chop. Chop.

Begin with the beef, add a bit of salt & pepper and break up the meat a bit. Toss in the veggies, stir those around and give them a few minutes to cook. I should mention that I microwave the potato for a minute before adding it to speed things up. Then add your spices and chicken broth, continue to cook until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh tortillas and frijoles.


Picadillo
(printable recipe)

2 lbs. ground sirloin
1 red potato, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. comino (ground cumin)
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. mexican oregano
1/4 c chicken broth
s & p to taste

*I sometimes add tomato sauce with the chicken broth, you can also add diced tomato as well. Picadillo is easily adapted to use whatever vegetables are on hand.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mango Paletas


One of the perks of living in Dallas has got to be the neighborhood paleta man. Who else can rescue a blistering hot summer day for only 75 cents? My folks' east Dallas area has several and a tamale lady that makes weekly rounds, yelling TAA-MAA-LES!! How great is that?!

But back to the paletas, as a kid I never knew what to get, there's so many flavors! I think I pretty much stuck to strawberry back then, but now mango is my favorite. I love the fruity, sweet taste, the rich cream and chunks of mango throughout. Its not a flavor you'll find at the grocery store. Well, unless you have a Michocana or Supermercado Monterrey close by. Even then you will pay about $1 per bar, but what if you want to stock up or share with friends and family? Well then you resort to crazy things like making purees, buying lots of cream and investing in popsicle molds. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, more paleta flavors will follow, but for now rich, creamy mango hits the spot.

Mango Paletas
(printable recipe)

2 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
2 c fresh mango puree*
1 c sugar
1 mango chopped fine

Combine all except for chopped mango and taste for sweetness. Freeze for 2 hours stirring every half hour to break up ice crystals. It should start to thicken and resemble melted ice cream at this point, stir in the mango pieces and pour into popsicle molds. You may also continue freezing and stirring until the ice cream is set, about 4 hours.

*2 c mango puree will require 4-6 ripe mangos, depending on size. You can also use a mango nectar, but reduce the sugar as most nectars are already sweetened.

If you have any of the ice cream base leftover and can resist eating it all with a spoon, it can be used in a multitude of desserts. I'm going to try making some ice cream shakes, maybe a freezer pie, and when my birthday rolls around (in just a few weeks!) I may try to use it as a cake filling.